Saturday, August 21, 2010

Duensing impressing

Brian Duensing had yet another superb start Friday night — eight innings, seven hits, no walks, six strikeouts, one run.

The assumption here has been that in the playoffs, the lefty will return to the bullpen, where he has also been effective. His run as a starter — since replacing Nick Blackburn in the rotation, he's 4-0, 2.18 — might be changing that.

It also should be noted, however, that most of those starts have come against rather weak lineups. Cleveland, Kansas City, Baltimore, Oakland — even the Angels have struggled to score runs this season. The best team he's faced so far, Tampa Bay, is also the one that gave him the most trouble (three runs in six innings).

After Duensing's three-hit shutout against Oakland in his previous start, Ron Gardenhire pulled the Johan Santana comparison. Yes, like Santana in 2003, Duensing started the season in the bullpen, then shifted to the rotation. Santana quickly became the Twins best starter and earned his first Cy Young Award the following season.

Duensing is no Santana. Santana was — and even in decline, remains — harder to hit. Duensing is striking out a bit more than five men per nine innings. Santana fanned more than a batter per inning every season in the Twins rotation, and even now is around 6.5 K/9.

It's no rap on Duensing to say he doesn't match Santana at his best. The question for the Twins as October nears is which four starters give them their best shot at advancing through the postseason. They have several more weeks to determine that.

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